Thirty Ways to Prepare That Are Free, or Almost Free
By Carolyn Nicolaysen
The worldwide financial crisis is a great trial for this generation, and we don’t see the end of it yet.
Nevertheless, there are things we can do right now that are free, or nearly free, that will bring us closer to
being self-reliant and prepared to meet our family’s needs.
But first, I want to dispel a few rumors of the Urban Legend variety. One email is still circulating among
well-intentioned people suggesting that a church leader told a congregation to prepare because a disaster
was “imminent”. Another report suggests that the Church has predicted that a pandemic would hit within
two years. I don’t speak for the LDS Church, but I have checked with both of the individuals named or
implied by these reports, and the reports are clearly not true, or at the very least, they are taken grossly
out of context and misreported.
Of course we should prepare, but unfortunately we don’t know what events might befall any of us within
the week, let alone within two years. Please folks, unless you hear it yourself through authentic channels
from the Church, you have every obligation to question such reports. Most of all, please don’t pass on
these sensational reports to others.
Now, back to basics. Here are 30 Things to Prepare That Are Free or Almost Free:
1. Protect your photos, journals and scrapbooks by moving them to a safe place in your home,
making them easier to grab in case you have to evacuate for a fire, flood, or other event.
2. Contact a friend or family member living at least 50 miles away and ask them if they would be
willing to be your family’s “Out of Area Contact”. They are agreeing to let you come to their home
if you need to evacuate, make phone calls on your behalf to your extended family, and store
copies of important papers and photos for you.
3. Record the serial numbers of major appliances and electronics. These should be stored in a safe
deposit box, and a copy kept in your 72 hour kit and with your out of area contact. Everyone is
vulnerable to a burglary or house fire, and these will be invaluable when trying to file insurance
claims or to claim your possessions as the police recover them. We recently had a family member
discover an item on eBay that had been stolen from their vehicle.
4. Collect change from the sofa cushions, everyone’s pockets, car, and the bottom of purses and
place those coins in your 72 hour kit.
5. Teach your family about pandemics and discuss a plan for caring for immediate and extended
family when a pandemic arrives. If you have not already done so, begin following the Friday
series “Pandemic Prep” at http://blog.TotallyReady.com and encourage them to do the same. By
following along, it will help calm their fears and empower them with simple, yet vital steps to
6. With your extended family, prepare a list of those who may need help to prepare for a pandemic
or who may need a place to be cared for when a pandemic arrives. Create a plan for their care if
they need a place to go. If they need help preparing and will be fine in their own home, help them
with information and financial aid to accomplish their goals. You may consider giving these
people food or other pandemic preparedness items to assist their preparation.
7. Call your child’s school and ask for a copy of the school emergency plan. If they don’t have one
ask some specific questions. For some help in composing a list of questions, copy the Meridian
article Is Your School Prepared for Emergencies? If your school has no plan to notify parents in
case of an emergency or to provide for a student’s needs during a lock down, or a plan to
continue education during a pandemic – now is the time to get involved in the parent club or to get
a group of friends together to go and ask some questions of your school administration and
school board. This is very important. Every day in the United States there are schools locked
down. I experienced a lock down several years ago at our high school. I was in the counseling
office when the signal came and the doors were locked. I immediately thought of my son and
realized he was in band. Thank goodness. There were restrooms in the band room. Several
months ago a teacher was fired because he allowed his students to use the waste paper basket
as a potty during a lock down. He was told he should have called the office and someone would
have come to escort the child to the restroom. What kind of lock down is that? In our case and in
the majority of lock down cases, there is someone around with a weapon. Who would want their
child escorted anywhere when someone with a gun was wandering around? If there is an
earthquake or fire or tornado, what is the plan? If students and teachers are quarantined during a
pandemic how will education continue? Missing three months of school is not an option. Be sure
to set aside some time to discuss this plan with your children once you obtain it.
8. Find out which radio and TV stations are part of the emergency broadcast system for your local
area. Be sure to find out which stations will handle emergency broadcasts for school
emergencies. Place this list in your binder where you can find it quickly when the need arises.
9. Create phone trees for friends, neighbors and family. Assign everyone two or three people to call
in case of an emergency. You will probably want a separate tree for family unless you all live in
the same area. During the San Diego fires a few years ago, an entire block of families survived
even though their homes did not, because they had a phone tree and called each other to warn of
the danger and advise their neighbors to get out. Be sure your Out of Area Contact has phone
numbers for every member of your family and extended family.
10. Create a Help List of friends and family who may be able to help with some of your preparedness
needs. This is a great dinner activity. Children have great ideas and they also know what their
friends’ families may have. Brainstorm about those who garden, those who can teach you to sew,
can, or repair a lawnmower. Is there a contractor who knows where to find scraps of lumber to
build a food storage shelf or to use as firewood? Empty nesters may have canning jars they no
longer use. Think creatively! When you have completed that list of resources, begin a list of things
you can offer in trade to someone else. Take inventory pictures for an elderly couple, teach
someone to can or to solve a computer problem.
11. Contact at least 2 of the people on your Help List. Let them know of your goal to prepare and
become self-reliant and ask them if they would be willing to share with your family. Offer to
trade…if you have neighbors who have fruit trees and you know they don’t have the time or skills
to can their fruit, ask them for fruit and offer to can a case for them. Elderly neighbors would love
to have you pick the fruit they can no longer pick and will be more than willing to share the
12. Compile a list of handicapped or elderly neighbors who may need help evacuating during an
emergency. Create a list of phone numbers and contact information for their family members. If
you are being told to evacuate, their family may not be able to get in to help them.
13. Gather your first aid supplies from around the house and in your vehicles. Inventory what you
already have on hand and make a list of items you need to purchase to complete those kits. Use
items from the house to complete your car kit and place the kit back in the car.
14. Choose a secret message place. In the event you must evacuate before the family can gather, it
is important to have a prearranged place where you will leave a note with the information as to
when you left and where you have gone. Naturally this is an invitation to looters, so make this a
secure place and not under a mat or in a door frame. Let your Out of Area Contact as well as
your immediate family know where this secret message place can be found.
15. Compile a list of family heirlooms to grab if there is time when evacuating. Post this list in a
cupboard or closet for quick access during an emergency.
16. Begin gathering as many of those items as possible into the same location, making them easy to
grab during an emergency.
17. Check your home owners insurance and make sure you are adequately covered. Be sure to add
any large purchases such as a boat or heirlooms if they are not already listed.
18. Print several copies of the Ground to Air Rescue Signals form.
(http://blog.totallyready.com/GroundToAirSignals.pdf) Place these in your car kits and 72 hour
kits. They can literally save your life if you are stranded in the wilderness.
19. Make an ice pack or two. Get a large, freezer-size, resealable, plastic bag. Pour in 3 cups of
water and 1-cup of rubbing alcohol. Lay flat in the freezer for at least 2 hours before using. They
will not freeze solid but can be easily molded to the area which needs the relief of an ice pack.
They are much less expensive than commercial ice packs and work great. During a pandemic
they would be invaluable to help reduce a fever. After a natural disaster they will help ease aches
and pains after a long day of clean up. They have a thousand uses.
Thirty Ways to Prepare That Are Free, or Almost Free